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Diet Evaluation

August 27-September 2, 2003

by Gary F. Zeolla

I kept track of everything I ate for a week (from August 27 to September 2, 2003) and evaluated my diet utilizing DietPower. This is an excellent program that automatically evaluates one’s diet for levels of calories, carbohydrates, protein, fats, cholesterol, fiber, and 21 vitamins and minerals.

Caloric Proportions

Prior to this evaluation, I had assumed I was consuming between 2000 and 2500 calories, and I ended up with an average of 2195 calories. So I was correct in my assumption in that regard. But I was a little off in what I thought my caloric distribution was. I was trying to consume the following ratio of macro-nutrients:

Carbs:    50%
Protein:  25%
Fat:        25%

My reason for this desired ratio is is several fold. In regards to carbs, previous research I had done had shown that 50% carbs is the best level for optimal exercise performance for activities like weightlifting. Studies show that less with than 40% carbs there is a definite decrease in exercise performance, but greater than 50% carbs do not provide additional benefit. I present my findings in this regard in detail in the chapter on "Exercise Performance and Carbohydrate Intake" in my Creationist Diet book.

However, I ended up averaging only 46% carbs, somewhat less than what I wanted. This might explain while I have been "dragging" some through my workouts of late.

As for protein, there is much controversy in this regard. But research shows that strength athletes require 0.81 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. However, the general consensus among powerlifters is that at least a gram per pound is optimal. But whatever the exact minimum, there is a limit as to how much the body can utilize. And I've seen no evidence that levels above 1.5 grams per pound would be beneficial. So my goal is to consume between 1 to 1-1/2 grams per pound.

Since I weigh about 118 pounds, this would mean I need 118-178 grams of protein. And I figured 25% of calories from protein would give me this level. And in fact, 25% of 2195 calories would give me 137 grams. However, as it turned out, I averaged 29% protein, which gave me 166 grams (1.4g/lb.). This was still in the desired range, but near the top end. This wouldn't have been a problem if it weren’t that my carb level was too low.

As for fats, some authorities recommend that athletes consume less than 25% fat, more like 15%. But I have found that such low fat diets are simply too difficult to follow. Keeping fat lows that low really limits that foods that can be eaten. I've also found that I simply get hungry soon after eating if I don't include some fat at each meal.

Moreover, some fats are actually healthy, namely monounsaturated fats. The consumption of foods high in monounsaturated fats, like nuts and seeds, fish, and olive oil, has been associated with reduced risk of heart disease. I discuss this issue in my Creationist Diet book.

However, I feel "weighed down" after a meal with too much fat in it. And eating too much fat, especially saturated fat, is not healthy. So my goal was to consume 25% fat, with an emphasis on foods high in monounsaturated fats.

And in fact, I ended up averaging 25% fat, just what I wanted. And more of this fat came from monounsaturated fats than from either saturated fats or polyunsaturated fats. The distribution between these fats was: And as a percentage of total calories, my saturated fat intake was. This is less than the 10% that most health authorities recommend.

So my fat levels were right where I wanted them. But my carb levels were too low. My protein levels were not too high per se, but higher than they had to be. So to bring my carb level up I dropped the level of protein in my diet. Most notably, I increased the carbs and decreased the protein in my post-workout drink.

Interestingly, I gained almost a pound within a week of increasing my carbs, but my weight leveled off after that. This gain might have scared some, but what I believe is happened is that by increasing my carbs I increased the amount of glycogen I was storing. So the weight gain was actually a good thing. And I'm already feeling like my energy levels have improved and even my recovery from my workouts.

And that is the value of evaluating one’s diet with a program like DietPower. You might think you're consuming a certain of level of nutrients, but you just might be off in your estimation.

Nutrient Levels

As indicated above, along with calories, carbohydrates, protein, and fats, DietPower evaluates a person’s diet for cholesterol, fiber, and 21 different vitamins and minerals.

One mineral of note is sodium. Health authorities generally recommend consuming 2400 mg or less of sodium a day. But the default level in DietPower is 1450 mg. This is halfway between 2400 and the minimum recommended amount of 500 mg. But such a low level is very difficult to consume. And with the sweating I do while lifting, I didn't think it was wise to go that low. So I changed the desired level to 2400, and ended up with 1900 mg, or 79% of 2400 mg.

As for other nutrients, below is the average amounts of each nutrient and percentage of the DietPower “recommended” amounts that I consumed over the evaluation week.

Item Amount Percentage
Cholesterol 237 mg 79
Fiber 41.5 g 166
     
Vitamin A 5420 mcg  603
Vitamin C 135 mg 150
Vitamin D  11.4 I.U.  6
Vitamin E  22.1 I.U. 101
Thiamin (B1) 1900 mcg  127
Riboflavin (B2) 1750 mcg 103
Niacin (B3) 22.4 mg 118
Pyridoxine (B6)  2980 mcg 149
Folic Acid 558 mcg 279
Vitamin B12  6.49 mcg  324
Pantothenic Acid  4.74 mg  86
     
Potassium 4680 mg  134
Calcium 953 mg 95
Magnesium 551 mg 131
Zinc 15.6 mg 141
Copper  1810 mcg 379
Manganese 9.15 mg 398
Selenium 208 mcg 379

So for most nutrients I am consuming at least the recommended amounts. Some of my levels were so high that the DietPower program indicated "caution" that I might be consuming too much. However, with engaging in a strenuous activity like powerlifting, I doubt very much this is the case.

Moreover, for a nutrient like vitamin A, I am consuming a lot more than the recommended amount. And it is true that an excessive amount of preformed vitamin A (found only in animal foods and supplements) can be a problem since it is fat soluble and can build up in the body. However, my intake was mainly from beta-carotene, the plant-based precursor to vitamin A.

There are no adverse health effects from an over-consumption of beta-carotene. The only possible problem is the skin might turn a little orange! But this would require eating far more carrots and similar foods that even I eat. But I do a lot of fruits and vegetables a day as I believe these are the healthiest foods one can consume.

But I was low in a few nutrients. I was slightly low in calcium and very low in vitamin D. This reflects that I generally do not consume milk. I use protein powders instead for the increased protein levels. But the calcium levels were only slightly low. So that is not a problem. And I spend sufficient time in the sun for adequate vitamin D to be created, so dietary vitamin D is not that much of a concern. Also the Jarrow Formulas Multi Easy (a multiple-vitamin mineral powder) that I take contains 400 I.U.s of vitamin D.

The B vitamin pantothenic acid was somewhat low. But this probably just indicates one minor problem with using a program like DietPower to evaluate one’s diet. DietPower has an extensive database of included foods. But if the program doesn't include a food that is consumed, it needs to be added. And I had many such foods I needed to add.

However, the only nutrients that can be included for the food are the ones included on the "Nutrition Facts" label of the food. So the user does not get "credit" for any nutrients in the food that are not listed. As a result, the program might underestimate one’s consumption of such nutrients. And I suspect this was the case for pantothenic acid and even the other B vitamins, as these are generally not listed on food labels. My levels for these nutrients were probably higher than what the program found.

But still, this is why it is a good idea to take a full spectrum, vitamin-mineral supplement. Doing so will help to make up for any minor deficiencies in one’s diet. However, a supplement will not make up for major problems. So a diet evaluation like I did here is helpful.

Servings per Day or per Week

So just what does my diet entail? Below are number of servings of various foods I generally consume on a daily or weekly basis. But it should be noted that these amounts reflect the minor changes I made to my diet as a result of this evaluation to slightly increase my carbs and decrease my protein levels.

Plant Foods:
Fruit: 2-4/day
Vegetables: at least 5/day (1 cup raw, 1/2 cup cooked/ serving)
Whole grains, sweet potatoes: 3-7/day
(1 slice bread, 1 oz. cereal, 1 med. potato, or equivalent/ serving)
Beans: 2-3/ week (1/2 cup/ serving)
Nuts, seeds, peanuts: 1-2 oz./day
Garlic: at least 2 cloves/week
Onion: 1/2 med./week

Animal Foods:
Red meat: 2-3/week
Chicken/ turkey: 3-6/week
Fish: 3-5/ week
(Above are 3-5 oz. servings)
Eggs: whole eggs 1-4/week; egg whites: 8-12/week
Yogurt: 3 cups/ week
Cheese: 0-2 oz./week

Protein Powders:
Jarrow Formulas Iso-Rich Soy
Healthy n' Fit 100% Egg White Protein
HDT Pro Blend
(above three alternated, two-three scoops/ quart/ day, ~50g protein)
Jarrow Formulas American Whey Protein (2 scoops in post-workout drink)

Miscellaneous:
Green tea with caffeine: 1 cup before workouts
Green tea without caffeine: 1 cup on non-workout days
Flaxseed oil: 1 tsp./day
Additional oils, added fats: 0-2 tbs./week
Sugars (e.g. jelly, maple syrup): 0-2 tbs./week; OR Deserts/ Sweets: 0-1/week

So that's what I generally consume. But there are also some foods and food ingredients that I try to avoid as much as possible. These are listed below.

Foods to Avoid:
Trans fat (hydrogenated oils, fried foods)
Aspartame
White sugar
High-fructose corn syrup
White flour
Iron-fortified foods and supplements

A discussion of each of these would require an article in itself. But suffice it to say it is wise to avoid all of these foods. The last one and maybe last two would only apply to adult men. See the three part article Basics of a Healthy Diet for details on my dietary choices.

Conclusion

Doing such an evaluation of one’s diet does take some time. But with a program like DietPower it is not too difficult. Once the program is initially set-up, it is just a matter of entering what foods one consumed. The most time-consuming part is entering foods not in the database. But once such regularly eaten foods are entered, it only takes a few minutes to enter the day's foods, but it still does require turning on the computer and doing so at least once per day. Trying to remember what one ate for the past 24 hours is hard enough, but trying to do so for a couple of days would be too difficult.

DietPower does work best if one uses it everyday, especially if the user weighs himself or herself each day and enters this as well. With such information, DietPower will adjust the recommended number of calories a day based on your initially stated goals and if you are meeting them. So if you told the program you wanted to lose a pound a week and are only losing half a pound, DietPower will adjust the recommended calories so you'll be more likely to reach your goal.

As for me, I'm basically not trying to lose nor gain weigh at this time. So my main purpose in evaluating my diet more concerned nutrient levels other than calories. And for such a purpose, evaluating my diet for a week every once in a while will suffice. So I did so for a week now and will probably do so again in a few months. Evaluating my diet like this periodically ensures me that I am consuming adequate nutrients and the correct caloric proportions.

Final Notes

Further details on the DietPower program I utilized for this evaluation can be found at DietPower for Weight and Health Management. The program itself can be ordered from DietPower. Information on my book is found at Creationist Diet Preview.

For the next time I evaluated my diet, see Diet Evaluation: 6/7-13/04.

Diet Evaluation. Copyright 2003, 2004 by Gary F. Zeolla.

The above article was posted on this site September 4, 2003.
It was last updated June 23, 2004.

Powerlifting and Strength Training
Powerlifting and Strength Training: My Diet and Supplements

Nutrition
Nutrition: My Diet Evaluations

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